Not even fifty years ago, Downtown Cairo was the elegant centrepiece of the city, this country and the whole Middle East for that matter. It went by nicknames like ‘Paris along the Nile’ and ‘The City of a Thousand Minarets’. Every artist from the region and beyond came to Cairo for the dazzling combination of ancient history and grandeur.

When walking around Downtown nowadays you can still see some of the old glory in the beautiful buildings. The main streets, formerly called avenues, are wide, spacious and still impressive. On narrow streets, you find ancient archways providing shelter from the burning sun. When you want to experience some of the quintessential Cairo nightlife for yourself; look no further than Sherazade. This cabaret has been located on Alfy Street for more than 50 years in the centre of Downtown, surrounded by several other baladi bars.

The interior of Sherazade evokes descriptions like terrific, ugly, sleazy, flamboyant, over the top and run-down. The walls are red, green and gold with red Christmas lights hanging from the ceiling. Decrepit wall paintings show Arabic princes saving belly dancers or princesses, and carrying them away on horses. Pictures of national belly dance icons like Fifi Abdou are also on display. The tables are covered with Stella cloths and faux flowers. You can order beer, gin and whiskey. Beer bottles are served in ice buckets and the bill is made up by ‘bottle counting’.

There are two stages. One is for the singer who, supported by a Yamaha keyboard, sings Arabic classics and the other stage is for the belly dancer, with performances kicking off around midnight every night of the week. The belly dancers may not be the most skilled performers, but you'll be too busy laughing to notice their lack of technique.

It is possible to eat at Sherazade, but there is no food menu. When we enquired about food, the waiter assured us we could order whatever we wanted and he would get it. Although we seriously doubt you can get sushi or lobster, it is possible to order kabab and mezzas. The entrance fee is 10LE and the minimum charge is 45LE, which will get you two beers. Sherezade is not the cheapest Downtown spot but it is quite possibly the most entertaining one.

Whether you want to sing along to Arabic classics, dance along with the belly dancer or just want to observe all this while having a bite and a drink; Sherazade provides a refreshingly different night out in Cairo. Granted, it’s a seedy cabaret with conspicuous figures lurking in corners; but take a group of friends along and you will feel like you are on the set of a classic Egyptian film.